Dr Elizabeth R Ballou PhD

Dr Elizabeth R Ballou

School of Biosciences
BBSRC AFL Research Fellow
Honorary Lecturer in Cellular Microbiology

Contact details

School of Biosciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Liz Ballou is a cell biologist and fungal geneticist researching how human fungal pathogens survive and cause disease in the host. Her lab addresses the basic biological processes that allow proliferation and pathogenesis of the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, which causes meningitis and affects 1 million people worldwide.


  • PhD in Genetics and Genomics, Duke University (2012)
  • MSc in Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2005)
  • AB in Chemistry, Mount Holyoke College (2004)


Dr Liz Ballou studied organic chemistry at Mount Holyoke College in the US before moving to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to study Molecular Biology in the context of infectious diseases. She went on to earn a PhD in Genetics and Genomics from Duke University, where her thesis revealed shared and divergent molecular mechanisms underlying the roles of duplicate, highly conserved regulators of morphogenesis in Cryptococcus neoformans pathogenesis.

In 2012 she moved to the Aberdeen Fungal Group at the University of Aberdeen, where she investigated the impact of the dynamic host microenvironment on pathogenesis and immune evasion of the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans in the laboratory of Prof Alistair Brown.

In 2015, she was awarded a prestigious BBSRC Anniversary Future Leaders Fellowship, allowing her to launch her own group as part of the University of Aberdeen’s MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. Her work at Aberdeen culminated in her discovery that C. albicans senses host lactate and responds by masking key Pathogen-Associated Molecular Patterns (PAMPs) on the fungal cell surface, thereby evading the host immune response. In 2017, Liz moved to the University of Birmingham as a Lecturer in Cellular Microbiology.  

Postgraduate supervision

Liz currently co-supervises PhD students in the area of fungal pathogenesis and host-pathogen interaction.

Students interested in working with Liz on any of the above research areas should contact her directly at e.r.ballou@bham.ac.uk 

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.


Reaesrch interests:

  • Cryptococcus neoformans;
  • Host-fungus interaction;
  • environmental sensing;
  • fungal genetics;
  • fungal genomics

ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8051-2302

Other activities

Liz acts as a reviewer for several journals and funding agencies and is a member of the Microbiology Society, the British Society for Medical Mycology, the British Mycology Society, the American Society for Microbiology, the Biochemistry Society, and the Society for Applied Microbiology.

In addition to her research and teaching, Liz engages in Science Communication with the public via Twitter and social media. She held a key role in organizing the Killer Fungus exhibition at the Royal Society Summer Science festival (2016) via the University of Aberdeen and attended the 2017 March for Science in London.


  1. Dambuza, I.M., Drake, T.,  Chapuis, A., Zhou, X., Corriea, J., Taylor-Smith, L., LeGrave, N., Rasmussen, T., Fisher, M.C., Bicanic, T., Harrison, T.S., Jaspars, M., May,R.C., Brown, G.D., Yuecel, R., MacCallum, D.M., E.R. Ballou* 2018. The Cryptococcus neoformans Titan cell is an inducible and regulated morphotype underlying pathogenesis. PLOS Pathogens. 14(5): e1006978.
  2. Crawford, A.C., Lehtovirta-Morley, L.E., Alamir, O., Niemeic, M.J., Alawfi, B., Alsarraf, M., Skrahina, V., Costa, A.C.B.P., Anderson, A., Yellagunda, S., Ballou, E.R., Hube, B., Urban, C.F., D. Wilson. 2018. Biphasic zinc compartmentalisation in a human fungal pathogen. PLOS Pathogens. 14(5): e1007013
  3. Warris, A., E.R. Ballou*. 2018. Oxidative responses and fungal infection biology. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 1–13.
  4. Ballou, E.R.*, Johnston, S. 2017. The Cause and Effect of Cryptococcus interactions with the host. Current Opinions in Microbiology. 40: 88-94
  5. Sherrington, S.L., Sorsby, E., Mahtey, N., Kumwenda, P., Lenardon, M.D., Brown, I., Ballou, E.R., MacCallum, D.M., and R. A. Hall. (2017). Adaptation of Candida albicans to environmental pH induces cell wall remodelling and enhances innate immune recognition. PLOS Pathogens. 13(5): e1006403.
  6. Ballou, E.R., Avelar, G.M., Childers, D.S., Mackie, J., Bain, J.M., Wagener, J., Kastora, S.L., Panea, M.D., Hardison, S.E., Walker, L.A., Erwig, L.P., Munro, C.A., Gow, N.A.R., Brown, G.D., MacCallum, D.M., and A.J.P. Brown. 2016. Lactate sensing drives fungal immune evasion. Nature Microbiology. p16238.
  7. Mackie J., Szabo, E.K., Urgast, D.S., Ballou, E. R., Childers, D.S., McCallum, D.M., Feldmann, J., and A.J.P. Brown. 2016. Host-Imposed Copper Poisoning Impacts Fungal Micronutrient Acquisition During Systemic Candida albicans Infections. PLOS One. 11(6): e0158683.
  8. Ballou, E.R. D. Wilson. 2016. The roles of copper and zinc sensing in fungal pathogenesis. Current Opinions in Microbiology. 32: 128–134
  9. Childers, D.S., Raziunaite, I., Mol Avelar, G., Mackie, J., Budge, S., Stead, D., Gow, N.A.R., Lenardon, M.D., Ballou, E.R., MacCallum, D.M., and A.J.P. Brown. 2016.The rewiring of ubiquitination targets in a pathogenic yeast promotes metabolic flexibility, host colonization and virulence. PLOS Pathogens. 12(4): e1005566.
  10. Bain, J.M., Louw, J., Lewis, L.E., Okai, B., Walls, C.A., Ballou, E.R., Walker, L.A., Reid, D., Munro, C.A., Brown, A.J.P., Brown, G.D., Gow, N.A.R., and L.P. Erwig. 2014. Candida albicans Hypha Formation and Mannan Masking of β-Glucan Inhibit Macrophage Phagosome Maturation. mBio. 5: e01874-14
  11. Shahana, S., Childers, D.S., Ballou, E.R., Bohovych, I., Odds, F.C., Gow, N.A.R., and A.J.P. Brown. 2014. New Clox Systems for Rapid and Efficient Gene Disruption in Candida albicans PLOS One. 9: e100390
  12. Potrykus, J., Ballou, E.R., Childers, D.S., and A.J.P. Brown. 2014. Conflicting Interests in the Pathogen-Host Tug of War: Fungal Micronutrient Scavenging Versus Mammalian Nutritional Immunity PLOS Pathogens. 10: e1003910
  13. Brown, A.J.P., Budge, S., Kaloriti, D., Tillmann, A., Jacobsen, M.D., Yin, Z., Ene, I.V., Bohovych, I., Sandai, D., Kastora, S., Potrykus, J., Ballou, E.R., Childers, D.S., Shahana, S. & M.D. Leach. 2014. Stress adaptation in a pathogenic fungus. Journal of Experimental Biology. 217: 144-155.
  14. Ballou, E.R., Kozubowski, L., Nichols, C.B., and J.A. Alspaugh. 2013. Ras1 acts through duplicated Cdc42 and Rac proteins to regulate morphogenesis and pathogenesis in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. PLOS Genetics 9: e1003687.
  15. Ballou, E.R., Selvig, K., Narloch, J.L., Nichols, C.B., and J.A. Alspaugh. 2013. Two Rac paralogs regulate polarized growth in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Fungal Genetics and Biology 57:58-75.
  16. Selvig, K., Ballou, E.R., Nichols, C.B., and J.A. Alspaugh. 2013. Restricted Substrate Specificity for the Geranylgeranyltransferase-I Enzyme in Cryptococcus neoformans: Implications for Virulence. Eukaryotic Cell 12:1462-71.
  17. Ballou, E.R., Alspaugh, J.A., and C.B. Nichols. 2012. Morphogenesis in Cryptococcus neoformans, in J Perez-Martin and A Di Pietro, eds. Morphogenesis and Pathogenicity in Fungi. Topics in Current Genetics 22, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 197.
  18. Okagaki, L.H., Wang, Y., Ballou, E.R., O’Meara, T.R., Bahn, Y.S., Alspaugh, J.A., Xu, C., and K. Neilsen. 2011. Cryptococcal Titan Cell Formation is Regulated by G-Protein Signaling in Response to Multiple Stimuli. Eukaryotic Cell 10: 1306-1316.
  19. Ballou, E.R., Nichols, C., Miglia, K., Kozubowski, L., and J.A. Alspaugh. 2010. Two CDC42 paralogs modulate C. neoformans thermotolerance and morphogenesis under host physiological conditions. Molecular Microbiology 75: 763-780.
  20. Nichols, C.B., Ferrerya, J., Ballou, E.R., and J.A. Alspaugh. 2009. Subcellular localization directs signaling specificity of the Cryptococcus neoformans Ras1 protein. Eukaryotic Cell 8: 181 -189.